Monthly Archives: May 2012

This Wednesday in 35mm: TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN replaces THE HALLIDAY BRAND

Unfortunately the 35mm print of THE HALLIDAY BRAND we were planning to show this week is missing its last three reels. As we are unable to screen the film in its entirety we will be replacing it with TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN. We plan to screen THE HALLIDAY BRAND somewhere down the road once a complete print becomes available.

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.


June 6
TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis • 1958
Swedish immigrant George Hansen may speak slowly, but there’s nothing tentative about his quest for yustice from the barbed end of a whaling harpoon. He has a score to settle against McNeil, the local grandee who metes out eminent domain through a hired gun, with Hansen’s father only the latest fatality. Shot in ten days by one-time Technicolor specialist Ray Rennahan in a frequently impoverished one-take style that anticipates the involved gaze of Warhol’s films, Terror in a Texas Town is a specimen of terminal cinema without any real equal. No less than Lewis’s The Halliday Brand, Terror in a Texas Town is a Cold War Western with startling subtextual edges. Starring remorseful HUAC informant Sterling Hayden and boasting an uncredited script by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, Terror in a Texas Town is the anti-High Noon–a film that takes seriously the possibility of a community uniting against a regime of political violence. It’s also gonzo-and-a-half enough to convince Western-skeptical film fans that something important is missing from their lives. (KW)
80 min • United Artists • 35mm from Park Circus
Cartoon: Daffy Duck in “Drip-Along Daffy” (Chuck Jones, 1951) – 16mm – 7 min

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Q: Is Lee Remick the Cutest Actress in All Cinema?
A: Find Out This Wednesday — Kazan’s Wild River in 35mm!

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

May 30
WILD RIVER
Directed by Elia Kazan • 1960
Montgomery Clift is an agent for the Tennessee Valley Authority (created by FDR’s New Deal to stop the flooding of the Tennessee River and bring electricity to impoverished areas in 1933) in charge of overseeing the construction of a dam. Faced with local opposition for (among other things) employing black workers, Clift’s biggest struggle is convincing Lee Remick’s grandmother (the great Jo Van Fleet) to move off of her island in the middle of the river. Shot on location in Charleston and Cleveland, Tennessee, Wild River was for the last couple decades available only in faded, muddy prints. This recent restoration by Twentieth Century Fox and Criterion Pictures returns Elia Kazan’s masterpiece (and an atypically humanist effort from the director of such dire engagements as A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront) to its full glory, and what surfaces is a picture that understands the great sadness that comes when even the most dysfunctional of cultures is washed away well-intentioned progress. (JA)
Co-presented with portoluz–WPA 2.0: A Brand New Deal
110 min • Twentieth Century Fox • 35mm from Criterion Pictures USA
Short: “People of the Cumberland” (Elia Kazan, et al., 1937) – 16mm – 18 min

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“An Informal, Nonhomey, So-What Sort of a Picture”:
The Captain Hates the Sea This Wednesday!

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

May 23
THE CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA
Directed by Lewis Milestone • 1934
Bookended by newspaperman and would-be novelist John Gilbert leaving his girlfriend to get on the San Capador to escape Hollywood and falling back into her arms in New York, the ocean voyage in between coasts is what dreams are made of. The film stars a bond thief (Fred Keating), a detective (Victor McLaglen) who falls for the Keating’s girlfriend (Helen Vinson), the ship’s steward (Leon Errol), an ex-prostitute (Wynne Gibson), an ex-prostitute’s husband (John Wray), The Three Stooges, and the titular Captain (Walter Connolly), a host of others, and somehow it all works. High production costs and – despite an insanely good cast – a lack of big name stars led to a limp-wristed Heaven’s Gate style release from Columbia, and the picture was all but forgotten. But per Otis Ferguson, who championed the film for his entire career, The Captain Hates the Sea was “the best neglected picture in two years … not only a departure from the safe cycles but a picture without a plot, an informal, nonhomey, so-what sort of a picture. Sadder.” The film has been crying for reevaluation ever since. (JA)
93 min • Columbia Pictures • 35mm from Sony Pictures Repertory
Short: Betty Boop in “S.O.S.” (Dave Fleischer, 1932) – 16mm – 7 min

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Ramblin’ Around: Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory
This Wednesday at the Portage in 35mm!

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

May 16
BOUND FOR GLORY
Directed by Hal Ashby • 1976
A long-gestating adaptation of a decades-old autobiography, Bound for Glory finally brought the life of Woody Guthrie to the screen in the unlikely form of David Carradine, then best known for TV’s Kung Fu. The film focuses on a scant few years in Guthrie’s life, 1936-1940, when the crusading troubadour came to embody a uniquely righteous presence on the American scene. Hopping trains and visiting labor camps, always organizing for some cause or another, often at the expense of his family, Guthrie comes across here as a refreshingly complex, unsanitized figure. More respected than loved upon its release (though Variety unexpectedly celebrated this lefty biopic as an overdue Bicentennial sop from a Hollywood unaccountably allergic to patriot pageants), Bound for Glory now looks both old-fashioned and totally new: the meandering narrative rhythms (an Ashby specialty) and the gorgeous, stately cinematography courtesy of Haskell Wexler mix with the first-ever use of the Steadicam and its roving naturalism in a Hollywood feature. (KW)
Co-presented with portoluz–WPA 2.0: A Brand New Deal
147 min • United Artists • 35mm from Park Circus
Short: “To Hear Your Banjo Play” (Irving Lerner & Willard Van Dyke, 1947) – 16mm – 16 min

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Barbara Stanwyck in The File on Thelma Jordon
Siodmak’s Rare Noir This Wednesday at the Portage!

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

May 9
THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON
Directed by Robert Siodmak • 1950
Barbara Stanwyck shows up late one night in the DA’s office to report an attempted burglary and is greeted by the DA’s assistant Wendell Corey, who is completely plastered and offers to fix a parking ticket for her if she’ll join him for a drink. Corey’s wife and children are away on their summer vacation and he starts seeing Stanwyck regularly. Things spiral out of control when Corey ends up being the prosecuting attorney in a murder case against Stanwyck, and the two lovers are met with crippling fate. A murky, slow burning star picture, Wendell Corey is an unlikely but excellent match for Stanwyck (he’d do it again the same year in Anthony Mann’s The Furies, also Paramount and a similarly devastating production) in a film that feels like a much more sinister version of Double Indemnity. Time Out noted “[Corey’s] haunted, hangdog persona as a perennial loser is echoed so perfectly well by the deliberately inexorable tempo of Siodmak’s direction … the film emerges with a quality akin to Lang’s dark, romantic despair.” (JA)
100 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from Paramount
Cartoon: Tom & Jerry in “The Duck Doctor” (Hanna-Barbera, 1952) – 35mm Technicolor – 7 min

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Radical Spinach: Wild Boys of the Road

Who was this movie made for?

Often the answer is obvious enough (housewives, teenage boys, the Friday night drive-in bumpkin, the half-conscious grindhouse denizen, etc.), but in some special cases, the interrogation itself opens up and deepens the mystery of the film in question. In those instances, the absence of a readily identifiable target audience makes the fact of a film’s production and release all the more beguiling.

Let’s talk about Wild Boys of the Road. It’s commonly reckoned an exemplar of the social problem film as developed by Warner Bros. in the 1930s. As Nick Roddick points out in his study of the studio corpus, A New Deal in Entertainment, such films were memorable and distinctive, but hardly plentiful. Warner Bros., like every other major studio, released a film a week in the 1930s, most of them bread-and-butter pictures that kidded campus life or military hijinks. The ambitious, socially-conscious pictures like Black Legion or They Won’t Forget were the exception to the surly, comfortable rule. Continue reading

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